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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr JESS (La Trobe) - I had not intended to speak on this Bill and therefore I will not take very long for I know that there are a few other honourable members who want to say a few words. I agree with most things that have been said by honourable members on both sides of the House. I think the suggestion by the Press - which is understandable I suppose - that this legislation would be rushed through without any debate was clearly a normal one except that I do not think it was one which was made with much knowledge of the situation. 1 agree with what the honourable members for Prospect (Dr Klugman), Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and Grayndler (Mr Daly) have said. I was at a luncheon a short while ago with members of the Press in Melbourne and I was asked the question: Do you travel much around Australia? I presume you are very busy travelling interstate and inspecting things that are going on.' My reply was that when I first came into this House, I was. Indeed, most honourable members when they first come into the House are but as circumstances change and as you perhaps gain more responsibilities in respect of a young family or whatever it may be, you find that you cannot do it.

What I put to the member of the Press was this: My responsibility as a member for a seat in Victoria is equal in relation to a naval base in Western Australia to that of a Western Australian member. Indeed, if an honourable member is doing his job instead of just saying: 'Yes', he should travel. If 1 support the move of the Government 'to build a naval base in Western Australia', or it may be 'to build a harbour in Queensland', I have a responsibility to endeavour to see some of these things in order to ensure that my vote is being rightly placed. But under present conditions this is becoming more difficult. Let me refer to my own situation. I have no hesitation in doing so. My bank manager insists on asking mc why he should maintain me in Parliament. I think he has a good point, and I am sure that some honourable members opposite would agree with him. This is a situation in which we should not be placed. It is all right for a Minister: He gets his travelling allowance wherever he goes as long as he is on official business. If you are the Minister for the Army it is not loo much trouble to go somewhere to look at some Army installation - perhaps to visit an entertainment unit consisting of 4 men and receive a full travelling allowance and free accommodation. But if a private member thinks he should go to Western Australia to investigate the proposed naval base he has to pay his own way. We get free travel, but we have to pay for our own accommodation and living costs and while we are away we have to maintain our families at home.

Believe me, after a term in Parliament there is not much left if you have done your job well. Democracy as well as the Parliament and the people are not well served if the member of Parliament feels that his sole responsibility is h s electorate; if he feels that he has no responsibility for what is happening in the rest of Australia; or if he feels that all he need do is attend charity bazaars and naturalisation ceremonies and kiss a baby or two. If a member of Parliament adopts this attitude the people of Australia will not be well served because they will have in Parliament people whose outlook is purely parochial and electoral. They will not be prepared to tackle wide issues and to investigate things that are of vital concern to the people. Therefore, I agree with what has been sa'd by honourable members on both sides of the chamber.

The newspaper reporter to whom I earlier referred is a senior reporter who frequently writes very critically about Parliament and members of Parliament. This is his right, but he should understand some of our problems. 1 do not know how long my bank manager will allow me to stay in Parliament. In one way this worries me, but in another way it does not. 1 was asked whether I would write a newspaper article which would be published in the weekend edition. A member has pride. I am not crying poor mouth but at the same time 1 have no business to fall back on. Daddy did not leave me a great enterprise. I do not have a pastoral property. 1 do not own a cha:n of hotels. 1 am dependent solely on my salary as a member of Parliament. I try to do my job to the best of my ability but it is getting more difficult to do so. I am sure that other honourable members who do not have private incomes, great wealth or some other interest are finding it equally hard to perform their duties.

If such members are forced out of the Parliament or prevented from entering the Parliament we may well get a type of parliarmentarian who is very limited in his ou I look. People who would be of the greatest value to this Parliament may well say: '1 have a good job with good prospects. Why should 1 give up all this for the present lot of a member of Parliament?' The Government should examine the situation of members of Parliament. The people should consider their situation. I think the newspapers are beginning to take a more realistic view of our situation. By improving the lot of the parliamentarian you may get a better member and the people may be better served.

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